Brand New High Tech Storage Site For Radiation Waste Opens in Almaty

NUR-SULTAN – A new long-term facility for sealed disused sources of ionizing radiation (SIRs) at the Institute of Nuclear Physics (RSE INP) in Almaty, Kazakhstan, started to operate in early July 2021. 

Demonstration of placing packages into storage. Photo credit: Inp.kz.

Construction of the facility started in May 2020, after some delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission headed by the RSE INP General Director Karakozov Batyrzhan worked on the final details between July 9-14, 2021. During the time, the commission also observed the technology of placing waste packages into storage wells first hand.

The storage facility consists of 12 wells of silo strength reaching a depth of 7.5 meters that are then used to place packages with spent disused SIRs of gamma and neutron radiation. The facility’s above ground part is a hangar structure.

The new facility eases the load of the existing storage facility of the RSE INP for spent disused SIRs that annually accepts about 250 SIRs, including orphan sources. The existing storage facility is 80 percent full, which significantly limits the ability of the organization to accept new SIRs. The Almaty region only uses approximately 65 percent of the total number of SIRs used in Kazakhstan, while there is no other regional storage that allows for the storing of relatively large numbers of SIRs for several decades until their final disposal or reprocessing. 

The commissioning of a new storage site allows for highly radioactive SIRs in the region, once they become used up in medical and industrial applications, to be stored safely away. This contributes to the improvement of the ecological situation in Kazakhstan, and also, taking into account the production of radiopharmaceuticals at the INP for healthcare organizations, solves several public health issues. The organization can further develop and implement new technologies by using leftover materials and technical bases more efficiently.

The construction of the facility is part of a cooperative program between the Kazakh Energy Ministry, Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and the United States Department of Energy (DOE), funded by GAC’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program.

The Promcomplect-B construction company built the storage facility according to the Project Design Package, which passed safety inspections in February of 2020. The Energoholding company carried out architectural supervision of the project, while the YRYS-Expert-Kurylys company was responsible for technical supervision.

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